KAY LUCAS, a friend in Marin County — with whom friends here have travelled — and I compared our confinement lives, last week. Kay said that she regularly reconfigures her wardrobe to create a casual chic in which to work from home, more or less spending her entire life there.
My approach is opposite. While at home, working, I wear shorts and a shortsleeved shirt, with a consistency of dress and appearance in my wardrobe that I cannot recall previously. I purchased new clothing to wear post-pandemic, assuring myself that the current chapter will end, envisioning a renaissance of arts evenings, concerts, dinners, galas, and travel.
Focusing upon beloved activities and visions of returning to the enjoyment of them serve as a carrot at the end of a stick and eases the absence of longstanding points of reference: A fabulous future awaits the American people. The current chapter will cease soon. Patience is a virtue.
I am uneager to return to normality earlier than necessary. The goal is to survive unscathed. The possibility of infection and diminishment after intubation inspires prudence presently. I want to climb mountains in summer and ski cross-country marathons in winter, as previously, more than I want to engage in activity, prematurely, compromising what follows.
Suggestions that our immediate prospects are binary — either / or —leave me unpersuaded. The choice is not living as one did six months ago or inhabiting a cave as in the Stone Age. It is finding an existence somewhere in between, where one is comfortable.
Coming from a medical family, I am well-acquainted with epidemics past and the prospect that society might find itself in a pandemic as we are today.
We can stay safe and stimulate economic activity simultaneously.
A response from The Ethicist, in The New York Times Magazine, on Sunday June 14, 2020, hit the bullseye. Someone inquired about a friend receiving a stimulus check who needed no money and wanted for nothing. He felt that he should donate the funds to charity. His friends suggested that the funds are intended to stimulate the economy and should be circulated therein.
The Ethicist advised: “When large numbers of people lose jobs and income, aggregate demand plummets; the total amount that people spend on goods and services goes down. This, in a vicious downward spiral, reduces demand further. At that point, getting people to spend is an important part of the economic recovery. And the money that your friend was sent can serve that function if he spends it, whether or not he deems the expenditures necessary.
“... It would do just what it was meant to be.”
One need not leave home to jumpstart the economy. Charity is appropriate at this juncture and all junctures and, similarly, there is benevolence patronizing merchants during a time of economic stagnation although housebound.
Whether one buys things that enliven one’s life sequestered at home, which is Kay’s example, or makes purchases to ensure that friends who see one, after months of separation, enthuse, “You never looked better!”, boosting one’s ego and spirits, which is my example, is a personal choice. The point is to permit small business owners to survive a recession and avoid a depression.
I use the hiatus to locate things that I have needed but had difficulty finding. I utilize time that was absent while I ran nonstop.
However you proceed, please harbor no guilt. You are unlikely to spend much money otherwise. Indulge yourself, and indulge those whose businesses depend upon the demand stimulated by your purchases. Spending money at the moment is among the most generous activities that one can pursue.
Jay Wiener is a Northsider.